Toucans and Toucanets

Eulodia Dagua, "Widowed Toucans Sing Love Songs."  

 

Men and women use toucans to carry their love songs anonymously over distance.  The reason they use toucans is that toucans always travel in pairs.  When one of them is shot its mate, whether male or female, perches in the top of a tall tree and sings plaintively until a new mate arrives. By the end of the day it has its new lover. This is why toucan songs are particularly effective as love songs.

Cite video as:

Tod D. Swanson,  "Eulodia Dagua, 'Widowed Toucans Sing Love Songs.'''  Youtube video. 4:26.  December 9, 2016.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lrLznnM6gI

Delicia Dahua sings in response to hearing the call of a toucan.

Tod Swanson “Delicia Dagua, Singing with the Toucan's Orphans."  Youtube video. 4:57.  April 2, 2013 12:15 PM.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpSX17f1KK0

Clara Santi Grefa, "On Gau Sikuanga."  

 

Video in Pastaza Quichua.  No subtitles. Clara Santi sings about how the large toucan steals Gau sikuanga's wife and talks about the relations between the birds. 

Cite video as:

Tod Swanson,  "Clara Santi Grefa, "On Gau Sikuanga."'  Youtube video. 7:53.  May 12, 2013.  https://youtu.be/xujN_RrPeZU

Clara Santi Grefa, "Song of Atun Sikuanga and Gau Sikuanga."  

 

Video in Pastaza Quichua.  No subtitles. Clara Santi sings about how the large toucan steals Gau sikuanga's wife and talks about the relations between the birds. 

Cite video as:

Tod Swanson,  "Clara Santi Grefa, "Song of Atun Sikuanga and Gau Sikuanga."'  Youtube video. 6:52.  May 12, 2013. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADzAywiK_ZE

Eulodia Dagua and Pedro Andi, "A Bird That Cries When People Die."

 

In this video Tod Dillon Swanson explores Amazonian Quichua tradition on the emotional ties that bind a bird species to local residents.  This is part of a larger tradition in which land and people are tied together by a bond of "llaquichina," "pena," or "empathy". 

Cite video as:

Tod D. Swanson, "Eulodia Dagua and Pedro Andi, 'A Bird That Cries When People Die.'" Youtube video.  5:01. February 3, 2015. https://youtu.be/hOxp4rgJZiA

In his article Helplessness as the precondition of Piro social life Peter Gow articulated a dynamic of Piro social life that I believe has much greater implications than even he was aware of for understanding not only Amazonian social life more generally but also the Amazonian relation to nature and even the Amazonian construal of the self.

 

In brief,  Gow argued that what holds Piro social life together is empathy based on recognizing the vulnerability (helplessness) of relatives.     Secondly this helplessness that is recognized is the solitude of someone whose identity is inherently plural, in other words, it is the solitude of a relative, an inherently related self.   Thirdly, Gow suggested that the moral burden of creating this empathic recognition of helplessness falls not on the (Good Samaritan) who feels sorry for the helpless relative but rather on the person who displays their helplessness thus evoking or causing the emotion of empathy that holds society together. 

 

Gow made his argument, somewhat narrowly, on Piro linguistic grounds.  At some points the linguistic basis of his argument may even be weak.  However the merits of his particular Piro linguistic argument is secondary for my purposes because his basic insights can also be made on the basis of other Amazonian languages such as Quichua or Shuar or can be made on non-linguistic grounds.   

 

The self as a wakcha.   Toucan and Guan love songs

Amazonian Kichwa and Shuar women hold their families together by singing magical songs.   These songs are intended to strengthen the emotional bond between husband and wife, children and parents by intensifying the recognition of helplessness Gow described.  The purpose of these songs is to portray the singer as a potential orphan or widow should the recipient leave them and so to cause the recognition of helpless ness in the intended recipient.  They are also intended to cause the recipient to recognize that if they jeopardize their relation to the singer they themselves.  

 

Both as metaphors and as carriers of these songs the singers use a variety of birds but chief among them are toucans.  Clara Santi articulates her sense that toucan songs are the strongest as follows.-----       But why do they use toucans?  The answer gets to the very heart of the matter.  It is because their songs are the best at attracting a relationship by causing the hearer to feel pity for their wakcha (widowed) solitude, the solitude of a singer whose identity should be plural and related.    Guan songs are used for the same reason.

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